Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the category “India”

Review: Teacupsfull – All For The Love Of Tea

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Different teas from Teacups Full

My earliest memories of tea have all to do with those old Victorian china cups on dainty saucers. As adults sipped their morning and evening teas, I’d be enamoured by the fresh smell. When I’d ask for a taste, I’d be repeatedly told it’s a drink for ‘grown ups’ and a glass of hot milk would be thrust towards me. But as a bonus, I’d get a Marie biscuit (found in all Bengali households) and I’d be overjoyed, forgetting all about the tea I’d actually wanted. I would happily dunk the biscuit into my hot milk and would watch for that precarious moment when it softened enough to be able to melt in the mouth, but not too much as otherwise it would fall into the depths of what I imagined was a gigantic glass.

As a child growing up with a father in the tea business, I’d remember the visits when the pater would come back from the gardens with different types of leaves to be consumed over the next few months. First Flush, Second Flush, Orthodox, CTC – the terms would be as alien to me as physics still is.

As I grew up, drinking tea in the morning became a routine. A hot mug of tea (the dainty cups can only hold so much) and I’d be all set for the day. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve come to understand or appreciate the taste of tea that’s brewed well. Today the tea cupboard overflows with containers that store different leaves and for me to be able to function, I need a giant mug in the morning. The type of leaves that I brew depends on the mood.

As a food blogger and reviewer, I’m happiest when I get to try out products which are close to my heart. And when the product is absolutely on point, you feel so good that you want to be able to express your overflowing emotions. I recently got the chance to review Teacupsfull and just absolutely loved the product. As a tea lover or a novice who wishes to be introduced to tea, I’d definitely recommend buying from Teacupsfull.

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Seven teas to taste from Teacups Full along with an instruction card

Teacupsfull is a family-run venture, a family who has tea running in their veins. They bring to the market loose leaf tea. The best quality tea is sourced from gardens in Bengal, Assam and Sikkim and packaged with care for consumers. They have a great variety and you can choose what tickles your fancy. Green, black, white, organically flavoured, CTCs for the people who can’t do without their masala chais, Teacupsfull has them all. And best of all, their teas are accompanied by cards which are very informative about the brewing process, the time needed and of course additions which should or should not be used.

For a novice tea drinker, do invest in a good tea pot. Theres’s nothing more inviting than a freshly brewed pot of tea with little cookies (A very Bengali tea-time thing!).

I tasted a wide range of teas from Teacupsfull and was delighted with them all. The leaves are superior in quality and when brewed, smell fantastic. The tasting is the next part. Just keep in mind the brewing time because otherwise the bitterness leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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White tea in a white cup, but of course!

The Moonlight White Tea (above) is exquisite in taste. The golden colour warms your heart and the slight sweetness uplifts your mood. I’d suggest having it without milk or tea because otherwise the additional sweetness will overpower the delicate taste.

The Organic Sikkim Black Orthodox has a rounded woody flavour. From the Bermiok estate, the leaves have a very distinct taste and it’s best enjoyed when brewed about 4 minutes. I prefer my teas without milk but do add if you like your tea that way.

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The leaves from Bermiok in Sikkim have a distinct flavour

The High Elevation Darjeeling Black is a prized first flush. The colour isn’t black unlike what the name suggests and the taste is slightly floral. Do not add milk to this tea! You’ll ruin the taste completely!

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The prized first flush

The Assam Gold Orthodox is your typical breakfast tea. The one you’re used to consuming in the morning for years. I prefer not to brew it too strong, though you can. Brewing the leaves for about 3 minutes makes it strong enough for me, though the father would strongly disagree!

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Your typical breakfast tea, strong and flavoursome

The Cinnamon Green is blended with green tea leaves and cinnamon. The pale yellow colour and strong smell of cinnamon makes this a very healthy option because of rich anti-oxidants.

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Just what’s needed when reading The Little Prince for the umpteenth time.

The Darjeeling Green Pearl is organic in every way possible. The light colour is soothing as is the floral flavour but what I love about the pearls is the unfurling! Yes, very childish I know! Do not have milk with this tea, maybe just a bit of honey and steep the pearls for about four minutes.

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The pearls unfurling is the best part.

For all masala chai lovers, fret not. Teacupsfull have their own blend of Assam CTC with aromatic spices. Add milk to your hearts content and savour the taste every morning. The flavour is strong with the spices but on a rainy day when you decide to bunk work on a whim, it’s best accompanied with homemade pakodas!

Check out more products from Teacupsfull here
Pocket pinch: Depends on the type of tea you wish to purchase
Product rating: 5/5

Review: Dr Oetker FunFoods

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The whole lunch spread

Dr Oetker Funfoods products have established themselves firmly in Indian households. Their mayonnaise bottles can be found in almost every fridge across the country while their various sauces and dressings are must-haves when cooking up a storm. I personally have used plenty of Dr Oetker FunFoods products for creating dishes in half the time needed. Just slather on some pizza spread with some vegetables and cheese on the base, and voila – your weekday Italian feast is ready in a jiffy! Or their pesto sauce which I often use for extra flavour over grilled vegetables during a working day meal.
I recently had the opportunity to review three of Dr Oetker FunFoods products – the Mayonnaise Tandoori, the Chocolate Milk Shake Mix and the Lite 1000 Island Salad Dressing.
With the soaring summer temperatures hitting the country, these three products immediately brought to mind a light lunch. What better than grilled cheese, a healthy salad and chocolate milkshake right?
I first spread some Tandoori Mayonnaise on brown bread, added cheese and a bit of seasoning, and then grilled it in a sandwich toaster. For the salad I roughly chopped up some lettuce, cucumber, tomato and gherkins. Tossed in some Lite 1000 Island Salad Dressing and we were ready to go. Lastly, mixing two tablespoons of the shake mix into a glass of cold milk and adding some ice, just a quick blend and the shake was ready.
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Grilled cheese with Tandoori Mayonnaise

I found the Tandoori Mayonnaise to be slightly overpowering. It worked in the grilled cheese sandwich but it’s better suited to more Indian recipes. Maybe a tandoori chicken wrap or as a dip with grilled vegetables and meat. It could even work with grilled paneer (cottage cheese).
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Light crunchy salad for the healthy days!

The salad dressing worked rather well with the simple salad. It’s light, fresh and very tasty. Just a small amount is enough for a big bowl of freshly cut salads. I feel this dressing will even go well with egg salads or a cold salad.
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The products reviewed

Lastly, the chocolate shake. It had a well rounded flavour and was chocolatey. There was however, a bit of an artificial aftertaste. To make it more decadent, I feel the addition of whipped cream and ice cream will work fine. Maybe even chocolate shavings to add to the cheat shake!
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the products. Dr Oetker FunFoods products definitely make your food fun!
Product rating: 4/5
Check out their website here

Review: Twigly – Fresh Global Flavours

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The meal delivered from Twigly

Recently at office a colleague ordered for lunch and when the food arrived, it smelled heavenly. We were all sniffing at her food all the way from our desk much to her annoyance! That’s when I first heard about Twigly.

Twigly is a recent food delivery start up in the NCR region. Based in Gurgaon and South Delhi, they have a limited menu which changes everyday and while everything is locally sourced and freshly made, their delivery presentation gets top marks. The packaging is neat and clean, minimal which is what I like. I love my food and really appreciate the fact the need to keep a menu small so that what they serve and deliver is of the best quality.

When I got the opportunity to review Twigly, of course I jumped at it. After placing my order, I got a prompt message regarding the order details and the expected delivery time. And much to my delight, the food arrived hot and fresh within the time frame. Also a message on the bill welcoming me to the Twigly family is what sets this delivery service apart from the crowd. They are personalised and believe in serving good, delicious food to their customers.

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Pairing my meal to a book cover colour!

Twigly does good sandwiches I’d heard so first up was Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich with multigrain bread. The bread was fresh which is so necessary in a good sandwich, while the chicken filling had a tinge of spice. Over all, a good sandwich which I’d love to eat again.

The Chicken Alfredo Pasta was creamy with succulent pieces of chicken and vegetables like broccoli and carrots for the health conscious customers. The portion was size was more than enough for one person and they serve it with a golden crisp side of garlic bread.

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Pasta, fresh and delicious

They have a Hummus, Pita and Falafel platter. It’s good enough for two really because of the portion size and makes for a great starter.

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For the love of hummus!

Lastly, there was a Blueberry Brainfreezer milkshake. Personally, I found it a bit too sweet for my liking but my roommate loved it! What can I say, I’m jealous of people with a sweet tooth!

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My complete meal! 

Twigly is a very reasonably priced food delivery startup and honestly, I would definitely recommend them for your next meal!

Check out Twigly here and see their complete menu here

Review: Cafe Yell

My first impression of Cafe Yell at Defence Colony Market was adorable. As you walk inside the cafe, the theme reminds you of clothes and tailors. After all, the cafe is a venture of the clothing brand Yell.

With oversized buttons, sewing machine, measuring tapes and coloured spools as decorations, Cafe Yell gives off a cozy and comforting feeling from the moment you step inside. It’s been about two months since the opening, but Cafe Yell has already made a name in the locality.

The smile is warm and inviting as you are seated. The menu cards are crisp and to the point, each dish described without much fuss, just how it should be. We order for iced tea, lemon soda and Yell watermelon mojito. They were perfect thirst quenchers in the heat which has engulfed Delhi and will continue to do so for some months.

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The food at Cafe Yell is what people are talking about. Let me tell you now how impressed I was. Right from starters to the mains, each dish was well balanced and left our tastebuds wishing for more (of course we’d need gigantic stomachs for that!)

First up, the Mozzarella Jalapeno Bombs had the perfect amount of gooey cheese and with their special dip, the taste just accentuated to a higher level. Don’t we all love Nachos? Well, you must try them at Cafe Yell because it has the perfect amount of topping and melted cheese. Together with salsa and sour cream, they make for a delicious start to your meal. The chicken Quesadilla was tasty and well-seasoned but somehow, didn’t quite hit the mark as much as the other two starters had.

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Mozzarella Jalapeno Bombs were the bomb!

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Chicken Quesadilla!

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Nachos anyone?

For the mains we started with pizza with four different types of toppings – Polo Speziato (chicken), pepperoni (pork), fungi (mushroom) and Spring Fling (assortment of veggies). The thin crust hand tossed pizza was simply outstanding. I’m not fond of veggies on my pizza much, but at Cafe Yell I licked the plate clean (just figuratively!) Then came the lamb burger with fries and slaw. The patty was succulent and well seasoned which is so important while the bun on its own was soft. But the highlight personally was the Risotto with bacon. There are some plates of food which look good but a taste undoes all expectations. At Cafe Yell, the moment the Risotto came out hot, just looking at it made us salivate. And as we took a spoonful to taste, we were left craving for more. The salt from the bacon complimented the creamy rice and took the experience to a different level altogether.

The desserts, however, didn’t live up to our expectations. While both, the salted caramel cheesecake and butterscotch brownie cup were good, we preferred the starters and mains more.

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Yell Watermelon mojito

We found out that Cafe Yell has a breakfast menu. So, the next time we are in the mood for some brekkie, we sure know where to head!

I would definitely recommend heading to Cafe Yell because the food is great, service fantastic and the pocket pinch not too much. So what are you waiting for!

Review: Dawat – E – Awadhi at Edesia

As I reach Crowne Plaza Today in Okhla, my stomach growls in anticipation. I love Awadhi food and with their all-day dining Edesia promoting a month-long festival called Dawat-E-Awadhi, I was about to indulge in an evening of rich and glorious slow-cooked delicacies. My mouth was watering.

Making my way up the elevator into the first floor, Edesia beckoned on the left. The 24-hour restaurant serves patrons various cuisines but their month-long Awadhi food festival is the centre of attention. Big handis (deep and wide-mouthed vessels) line the buffet counter. For Rs 1900 (plus taxes) a person can indulge in a fantastic Awadhi dinner. Children can enjoy the feast for Rs 1000 (plus taxes).

Non veg appetizers

Non veg appetizers

Two appetizer platters arrive on the table. The non vegetarian options have melt-in-your-mouth Galouti, delicious and tender deep fried chicken, miniature Shammi kebabs and Kathi rolls. The vegetarian one has stuffed Paneer Tikka which is rich and creamy, and meatless versions of the others. I would definitely recommend the deep fried chicken, Galouti and Paneer Tikka. They were my favourites.

Check out their tawa section because the options change everyday. While I tasted Tandoori Pomfret which was the star that day, they do serve raan and other such specialties. I preferred the tawa chicken more than the fish but then again, I’m not partial to pomfret.

Tawa counter

Tawa counter

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Now came the time for indulgence. To be honest, I don’t do buffets because like most, I tend to overeat. But with experience and practice I’ve found the right path – take tiny tasting portions! The Awadhi Mix Dal was so tasty. Different lentils and ghee make for a perfect combination on a winter night. The vegetarian fare includes Paneer Shahi Pasanda, Subz Makhanwala and Palak Mushroom Malai. The paneer is soft, the mixed vegetables have the right amount of spice with an after taste of butter while the mushroom and spinach combination hits all the right spots. Then comes the Awadhi Dum Aloo. Small potatoes in a rich gravy is best eaten with buttered breads.

Mixed dal

Mixed dal

Dum Aloo

Dum Aloo

For hardcore non vegetarians, I would definitely recommend the Shahjehani Karele ki Nihari. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined liking meat with karela (bitter gourd). The meal just melted in the mouth while the bitterness of the karela was enough yet not overpowering. The quality of the meat was superb and it was interesting to chat with executive chef Sudershan Bhandari on the unique combination! The Noorjahani Murgh was extremely rich and creamy while the Zaffrani Fish Curry in a red gravy was spicy enough to give a balance.

Nihari with Karela

Nihari with Karela

Creamy luscious chicken

Creamy luscious chicken

Zaffrani fish

Zaffrani fish

The rice section has three handis – steamed, pulao for the vegetarians and of course the famed Mutton Biryani for meat lovers.

Mutton biryani

Mutton biryani

Every rich meal deserves a richer ending. While the dessert section is inviting, the deep fried sweet Jalebis are perfect to pop into the mouth. Made in front of your eyes, you consume the intricate handiwork of the chef while the sweet syrup leaves its mark on the white plate. I could barely move despite those tiny tiny portions!

Tiny hot piping jalebis

Tiny hot piping jalebis

The Dawat-E-Awadhi is on till November 30, 2016. Go taste the wonders of Awadhi cuisine at Edesia. You won’t go home hungry, I promise.

Where: Edesia, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi in Okhla Phase 1

Guest Post: A Tale of Two Biryanis

The magnificent Biryani

The magnificent Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani (kachchi)

Only a few weeks ago, I undertook the seemingly herculean task of making a Bakr Eid biryani. Up until then I had just been an avid fan and a diligent consumer of the preparation. Have biryani, will eat. I don’t discriminate when it comes to the nawabi delicacy. Still, gun to my head, I would side with the Hyderabadi and the Murshidabadi variety. On this particular occasion, I decided to bet on the former.
I chose the Kacchi biryani recipe, consulted friends who were in the restaurant business on the correct way, went through a dozen web videos and recipe charts, memorized it and recapitulated it in my head again and again and then some. In stark contrast to my paranoid planner mold, my partner is more the take as it comes kind. However, I literally force fed the recipe to him and even revised it with him, night before Eid. He did his best to keep a straight face and I managed to not lose my cool.
As with everything too well-planned and rehearsed this biryani was doomed from the very start. The supposed aged long-grain rice, crumbled to the slightest duress (much like kheer rice) after its 30 minutes in waterbath. Then the mutton did not tenderize, in spite of the measured portions of unripe papaya. And the best of the lot, the sealed dum mold cracked open midway. Total sabotage. Long story short, I was staring at a resounding failure on a day when six expectant stomachs were counting on me rather hungrily. I can’t even begin to start counting the lessons learnt. But those are for me till I risk the next attempt.
I was especially heartbroken because the homesick me wanted to recreate a childhood memory. One of my fondest. That of a perfect, homecooked pot of biryani. As meals go, for me, biryani constitutes the start and end of perfection. Biryani meant summer holidays. Biryani meant festive. Biryani meant family. Biryani meant Sundays.
Growing up we were a wildly happy bunch. And Sundays for no rhyme or reason made us happier. And when we got too happy we cooked biryani. So my first memories of a Sunday cook were filled with aromas of onions slowly caramalising to a crispy sweetness, rice boiling in whole spices, meat stewing to juicy tenderness and fat potatoes being prodded and poked, baked and crackled with the intimacy reserved for old friends. It was like a montage right out of a lovely French film. Such beauty. Such visual generosity. Such homely warmth. We were smiling from our stomachs. All guts and glory. What went behind the scenes was another story.

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

I took the longest time to fall in love with my plate of food. I don’t really know what it was about my childhood that deemed mealtimes as merely a four-time necessity to be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Not surprisingly those four times were the most dragging part of my day that required stories, threats and coaxing on my late mother’s part. Quite a task considering taste buds and appetite were never my strong suit as a kid. Gritty woman, she did get every mouthful to its designated destination, sometimes prying my jaws open with a spoon, if and when needed. At least I remember it that way. I salute her a thousand times every day as I now run after my finicky toddler at mealtimes.
But the summers were different. Summers at Grandma’s. The only time when food was something more than just a daunting routine. The only time when food turned into something more festive. Not suggesting a change of heart towards meals though. (I still hated those rude, unwarranted intrustions into my playtime and daydreaming). It was the hoopla around food. The sights, sounds and aromas.
My mother was the eldest of five sisters; all married with two kids apiece. That made my grandma’s ancient two storied house a veritable epicenter of boisterousness. Ten cousins in all shapes and sizes seeing each other once a year generated enough revelry that could literally bring those wooden beams down. A little insight into what food represented in my family. From where I come, a man’s character and likeability was plainly shown in his palate and his plate. If you nursed a healthy appetite you were pretty much golden. And that required  at least three additional servings/helpings at the table. Yes three was just about ideal. Anything less than that was considered an insult to the food and hospitality. (So if you happened to find yourself saying, ‘No thanks’ after the first helping, consider yourself judged forever). I have actually seen some of my uncles with superhuman capacity for food and abyss for stomachs who wouldn’t shy away from five or more helpings. I kid you not. But of course, each of those addendums (or the very suggestion of it) were to be politely declined at first. Till the host piled the ladle-full on the plate, that is. It was one of those joys you couldn’t deny the host. This joy of love demostrated in terms of vertiable forcefeeding. You could literally see the eater’s hand defending the front of his plate in a mock protest with due shyness but abandoning it at the behest of the host’s greater will.
Now considering that my Grandma was fond of all her sons-in-law, one can imagine the quantity of food prepared and the chaos and clamour surrounding it. She took an inhuman amount of pain and pride in her food. Not joy so much. Never actually.  The kitchen was her cross and her crown. I guess when you have been doing something for five decades it becomes second nature and the spark of it as an accomplishment fades. Or maybe she lived in times that saw culinary brilliance as a prerequisite rather than a cause for applause. Every plate of food she put up had a beautiful narrative to it. But it went largely untold. I can’t even imagine her telling anyone about making a brilliant pot of stew or taking a picture of it. It would just about embarrass her perfectly. She lived years before the validation or gloating of social media invaded our kitchen counters and table tops and poked it’s nose right into our food plates with the ‘Like’ buttons.

Mutton Shami Kebabs

Mutton Shami Kebabs

To tell you the truth I have really never seen my grandmother anywhere outside her kitchen except when she slept next to me at night. Her frown was chiseled on her forehead and with her horn rimmed glasses she was the matronly masthead, the epitome of domestic dictatorship presiding over all things dead or alive entering the four walls of her kitchen. Trespasser were prosecuted. Her penchant for perfection was characteristic of her generation. She didn’t budge an inch from her recipes (all handed down through generations). So while the summer holidays were fun for us kids, Grandma with ten hungry children and five set of parents had her task cut out.
Work, always, started a day before. Everything was shopped early morning from the local bazaar. The trusted family butcher (you just needed to tell him what you were cooking and the rest was his job), the spice seller, the vegetable woman – all those people who were part of my childhood and unknowingly made so many of my fondest memories- would instinctively know what to suggest when told about Grandma’s feast.

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

And so would begin the grand undertaking. Under the watchful eyes of Grandma. With my mother and aunts played minions. Since Sunday biryani could never mean just biryani, there was a separate meat dish or two, a few vegetable preparations, sweets and salads on the menu. And everything was made right from the scratch. There was peeling, chopping, cleaning, grating, mixing, grinding and dozen other processes undertaken, while abundant gossip and tea broke the austerity. Rows of sun-kissed spices, saffron steeping in a now golden milk, sheets of wet muslin and a beautiful langour covering everyone. Kids were left alone with a simple brief. ‘Go play. Don’t disturb.’ (I was 13 when I was first allowed to set foot in the hallowed space only because I was making my first dish ever- green banana koftas in gravy) Now, while on regular days this would be a God send, these happy Sundays made us crave for the grown-up attention. Resultantly, one or two of us would loiter around stealing a peek, taking in a whiff and hearing a bit of gossip before we were chased out of the circle with an earful.
Once the prep was over (and we are still around 9 in the morning), the shiny brass and copper cauldrons and pots (all big enough to fit two of us five year olds inside) would come out. It was an alfresco event, our biryani. The fire was lit on the terrace and each of the ingredients would be carried up. No longer able to hold our curiosity, we would run amok, knowingly risking being swatted along with the flies.

Chicken in creamy gravy

Chicken in creamy gravy

The cooking part was tricky. Of course, there was the rice to be prepared, then the meat to be prepared, then the layering and the final Dum. But ‘tricky’ lay in handing over the ladle to one of her sons-in-law each of whom claimed to know more than the next. To quash the cacophony Grandma ended up squatting under the canopy monitoring and bringing in a much needed restrain as everybody got a chance to stir the pot. There was always a fight about how much of water to be added. But I guess they reached a consensus when Grandma punctuated the flying arguments with one of her coughs. As we neared lunchtime, the aromas wafted through the whole house and garden and I bet the neighbourhood. It wasn’t unusal for one or two neighbours to drop in claiming they ‘happened’ to pass by.
Rows of food in shiny brass and copper utensils, embroidered sheets running from length to length of the room. After a day of regimented exercise, this meal could stretch till evenings at times. Slow, easy, filled with conversation and anecdotes, laughter and such copious amounts of bonhomie. Sitting there listening to it all, food was the least of my thoughts. In fact, it would be years before I started to revel in the succulent, melting pieces of meat or draw happiness in the alchemy of ghee or rejoice the versatility of potatoes in the magic rice. Till then all I cared about was the happiness at being a part of it all. It was my carnival.
I was relatively cheered up when friends dropped in with Eid biryani the next day. A little more when my Maasi made the same biryani and the usual accompaniments I set out to make and promised me a cauldron full during her next visit.

Maria Bilkis is a Mumbai based writer, visual artist and committed foodie. Follow her journey as the amateur food writer and new mommy learns the ropes in her tiny kitchen on Instagram and Facebook

Review: Twist, Cyber Hub

Good food makes one feel beautiful!

Good food makes one feel beautiful!

I love Spain. I do. The laid back atmosphere, the vibrant culture and most-importantly – tapas. The small plates shared among friends after a hard day’s work is a wonderful feeling, simply a way of life there. Twist, a new restaurant in Cyber Hub (in Gurgaon), has a very interesting concept. They serve tapas but with Asian flavours. Now, I’m extremely partial to tapas. Gorging on them every time I visit Spain, I do tend to overdo it. And comfort food for me is anything pan Asian. Believe me, my sister often goes insane when we try and pick a restaurant for dinner because I tend to visit pan-Asian places much too often for her liking! With Twist combining two of my favourites, a weekday afternoon lunch was absolutely a win-win situation!
It’s barely been about two months since Twist opened it’s doors but it’s already garnered a fair share of patrons. The casual ambiance makes one feel at ease walking in. While the fine dining area is impeccable, the bar side is more laid back. Plus, the outside seating area, so beautifully decorated with wooden tables and gorgeous greenery, immediately takes one back to European cafes.

To eat...

To eat…

... And to drink

… And to drink

As we were seated, two delicious looking mocktails made their appearance – Lady Twister and Volcano. The former with guava, cranberry and gingerale while the latter with pomegranate and rosemary. Both tasted very well with the appetizers which began making their appearance one after the other. First the Shrimps with a Twist with a mayo dip. Then arrived the Crispy Calamari. Both were delicious and hit the right spot. Let’s not even get started on the chicken wings. The marinade was perfect and every bite left us wanting more. Rarely so have I had good tofu. When the Tofu Crunch in its sesame dressing glory came on the table, our chopsticks almost in sync went forward to grab one. Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth! The Orchid Mushroom, a house specialty, was good but slightly hot for the tastebuds. And lastly, the chicken dumplings rounded up the starters.

Pretty mocktails make for a pretty picture

Pretty mocktails make for a pretty picture

Ok, the Shrimps with a Twist doesn't let you stop at just one!

Ok, the Shrimps with a Twist doesn’t let you stop at just one!

Crispy Calamari is always a crowd pleaser

Crispy Calamari is always a crowd-pleaser

 

For the vegetarians, Orchid Mushroom

For the vegetarians, Orchid Mushroom

Stacks of tofu...

Stacks of tofu…

Wings anyone? Damn delicious I swear!

Wings anyone? Damn delicious I swear!

Lift the lid and the steam escapes! Hot dumplings left behind!

Lift the lid and the steam escapes! Hot dumplings left behind!

With so much already consumed, we barely had space for anything else but hey, never say never to food is the motto isn’t it? So out came the panfried noodles with chicken tossed in black pepper sauce to make us drool even more. Though the menu tells patrons to order 2-3 dishes as the serving sizes are smaller in comparison to other restaurants (the tapas concept), each are perfectly shareable between two!

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Noodles and chicken

Dessert is always needed after a meal. And the perfect chocolate snicker bar with vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to end a great lunch. All in all, I had a wonderful time at Twist. It had great food and that’s what I look for in every restaurant I visit. It’s a great place for working lunches but is more popular for dinners. I would surely be back again!

A whole lot of chocolate to end the meal! Rich and decadent!

A whole lot of chocolate to end the meal! Rich and decadent!

Review: Food Festival at Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav, IGNCA

Anyone hungry?

Anyone hungry? Just look at the variety!

As you enter the gates of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the colourful posters immediately catch your eye. People mill about as traditional music can be heard over the PA system. There are men dressed in traditional outfits beating drums which everyone gathers to hear while men in stilts entertain the young ones. The smell of delicious food wafts through to tickle the nose. Above all, it’s a festive atmosphere and a perfect way to spend a winter afternoon in Delhi.

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

The second edition of the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahostav is being held at IGNCA near India Gate. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, it’s a 10-day extravaganza to celebrate culture, food, heritage and the diversity of the country. “Can anyone walk in?” asked my auto driver as I was paying him. I nodded in affirmation.

Dumplings from the North East

Dumplings from the North East

What drew me to the celebrations was obviously the food! With food stalls from all across the country, the festival stayed true to showcasing diversity. From Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, Nagaland to Rajasthan there was plenty on offer for every taste bud at reasonable prices.

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

I began at the Lucknow food stall where melt-in-your-mouth Galauti Kebabs were on offer. One could also taste biryani, parathas and other kebabs from the Awadhi kitchens. From Lucknow, I moved east towards the Bihar stall to gorge on Litti Chokha. It’s caught up in Delhi with many Bihar-themed restaurants springing up but the wheat and sattu (gram flour) delicacy is best eaten on paper plates from roadside vendors.

Litti Choka from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

Litti Chokha from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

The stalls from Assam caught all eyes with skewers of meat and seafood on display. The roast pork and chicken tossed with onions, cilantro, lime juice and spices was absolutely delicious. “We’ve come from Dibrugarh,” said the smiling lady behind the counter as she chopped up the pieces of meat.

Meat and more meat!

Meat and more meat!

Ready to be devoured!

Ready to be devoured!

From the east, it was time to move towards the west. I’m an avid fan of street food and the kind one gets in Maharashtra has me drooling every time I see them on a menu. I just had to taste the Sabudana khichdi simply because I hadn’t had it in two years! The first bite did justice to the long wait. The crushed peanuts, lime juice, spices complimented the sago (sabudana) perfectly, each bite leaving me wanting more.

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts!

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts – Sabudana Khichdi

The Hyderabad stall next door was racking up fast business with people ordering plates and plates of biryani and kebabs. With a tummy ready to burst I couldn’t take another bite but my kind neighbours looked at my forlorn face and asked, “Do you want a picture of this?” I nodded and quickly photographed my favourite kind of biryani before they could rescind the offer!
It had been a delicious afternoon, my favourite kind. I love food and when I get a chance to taste diverse cuisines from my own country, it leaves a big smile on my face. India is so vast and beautiful, each region with its own charm that it will take one a full lifetime to taste everything our country offers. But until that happens, head to IGNCA to get a taste!

Oh Biryani my love!

Oh Biryani my love!

Review: Bagrry’s — Nutritious, Healthy and Tasty

Healthy products from Bagrry's

Healthy products from Bagrry’s

I had never been fond of oats growing up. My grandfather would take porridge every morning for breakfast and tried to inculcate the habit in me. My mother would use oats creatively to get me to eat it. I refused every single time and eventually everyone gave up. I don’t know why I disliked it so much really because I can’t pin point a reason. But then, something miraculous happened. I grew up!
As we grow older, our tastes and habits change. Often we find ourselves enjoying things we had never dreamed we could during our childhood. There was a time when my dress code used to be jeans and a tee with sneakers. Never in my wildest imagination could I even think of dressing up in skirts and dresses. 15 years down the line, I can imagine my younger self having a good laugh to the point when tears roll down her cheeks!
Similarly my eating habits have undergone changes and believe it or not, my day starts with a bowl of oats and sometimes, even ends with it when I feel lazy to cook dinner. If the laziness reaches extreme levels then it’s about pouring muesli into a bowl, adding milk or flavoured yoghurt and maybe some additional berries to give it an extra kick! As you can make out, I don’t tend to follow the breakfast rules!

Cornflakes with almond and honey

Cornflakes with almond and honey

Oats, the old fashioned kind

Oats, the old fashioned kind

Masala Oats, very very delicious

Masala Oats, very very delicious

Crunchy Muesli with nuts and cranberries

Crunchy Muesli with nuts and cranberries

Last but not the least, White Oats

Last but not the least, White Oats

Bagrry’s have been around in the Indian market for over two decades. I recently had the honour to review some of their products and everything I tasted put a genuine smile on my face. While their Muesli (my absolute favourite) is filled with dried cranberries and nuts which you can taste with every bite, the Masala Oats are delicious and have the perfect balance of spice and mild. Don’t even get me started on the Cornflakes. They make one with almond and honey and the taste is heavenly when doused with milk. It’s sweet, yet not the sickening kind, and there is no scrimping on the almond flakes. The Old Fashioned Steel Cut Oats make one of the best breakfast bowls. Cook with milk or hot water, load up with fruits and nuts, even maybe a bit of jam or jelly for guilty pleasure and voila, a healthy well-balanced breakfast awaits you to power start a day. Oats are so versatile that one doesn’t need to have it the way it’s advertised usually. Use it to make cutlets or even chops, they are beneficial and so much healthier than loading up on empty carbs.

Cornflakes go so well with milk!

Cornflakes go so well with milk!

Another view of the cornflakes

Another view of the cornflakes

Muesli served with milk and flowers. It makes any breakfast special!

Muesli served with milk and flowers. It makes any breakfast special!

For muesli on the go, mason jars are perfect.

For muesli on the go, mason jars are perfect.

My favourite way to eat masala oats -in bed with coffee!

My favourite way to eat Masala oats – in bed with coffee!

Bagrry’s tagline reads ‘Let’s put health first’. I couldn’t agree more. The pace at which one consumes junk food on a regular basis is scary. Bad eating habits not only affect one’s health but make one lazy and unproductive. Bagrry’s offers consumers all-natural, innovative and extremely healthy products with no compromise in quality. One can choose from 12 different varieties of Muesli ranging from chocolate to dried fruits and nuts. There’s also a wide range of oats on offer. If you don’t like masala, pick up the usual old-fashioned kind. From high-fibre bran to three kinds of cornflakes to the ‘Oats for India’ range that offers oats for atta, suji and poha; Bagrry’s even offers green tea for the health conscious.
Personally, I would definitely choose Bagrry’s during my grocery shopping trips. I’ve enjoyed each and every product I’ve used and would recommend it to every health-conscious eater out there.

For more information check out Bagrry’s. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram

Review: 38 Barracks – A Twist on Traditional Navratra Celebrations

The interiors of 38 Barracks

The interiors of 38 Barracks

I had heard a lot about 38 Barracks but I visited the restaurant, situated in Connaught Place, thanks to a bloggers meet. Like most places, this eatery too was catering to the Navratra celebrations but unlike most restaurants which prefer to serve a set thali, 38 Barracks put a twist on it. “We are serving a four-course menu. One can either order each course separately, or the whole meal together,” says Ankur Agarwal, out host for the afternoon.

Another view of the interiors

Another view of the interiors

It’s a great concept because one often doesn’t like to devour a whole thali. It can be the case of wanting to pick and choose what to eat instead of everything the set thali offers. The four-course meal is priced at Rs 799 only and curated by Michelin-recommended chef Gautam Chaudhry.

The Special Navratra menu

The Special Navratra menu

The food is not the usual fare, trust me. The humble sabudana (Tapioca Sago) which is widely used during the festival, is paired with raisins and the sago risotto was mouth-watering! Even the dips are unusual with coconut chutney taking centre stage with most starters.
A look at what we devoured:

Hello Pina colada!

Hello Pina Colada!

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi with Sabudana papad

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Chironjee ki Daal

Chironjee ki Daal

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Makhana kheer with fruits

Makhana Kheer with fruits

What really works is the ambiance. The old and retired colonel’s house-themed restaurant with nostalgic bric-a-brac on walls and fantastic live music for the visitors should be on the list of must-visit places in Delhi.

Ambiance: 5/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Connaught Place, New Delhi
Follow 38 Barracks on Facebook and Instagram

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